Recent advances in nanotechnology allow cancer researchers to finally examine the nanoscale components of the cell and identify very tiny differences that might alter the function of normal cells to make them behave as cancer cells. CTCR researchers are using the latest technologies to develop means to precisely control and manipulate molecules for use in living cells and tissues. The long term goal is to develop new means of fighting cancer at the nanoscale. Our researchers use computational tools for collection of physical data, for digital information storage, and for nanoscale analysis. Because the development of new treatments for cancer requires the understanding and use of engineering principles, we bring together interdisciplinary teams of electrical, chemical and mechanical engineers working with clinicians and life science researchers on common problems in cancer. The overarching goal is to use creative new means to either repair cellular structures at the nanoscale or to build new structures for tissue engineering. Several laboratories in the CTCR are using nanoparticles that are biocompatible with cells and using materials derived from natural biology to derivatize the particle surfaces so that they will bind selectively to cancer cells.
Two laboratories in the CTCR are working to develop cancer nanotechnology. The Magnetics Lab in the Department of Physics and Astronomy is developing magnetic nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery and the detection and treatment of cancer. Investigations as a function of particle size and saturation magnetization are being carried out on polymer coated nanoparticles to understand the role these play in establishing effective MRI contrast agents and the ability to locally heat cancer cells for hyperthermia treatments. Drug delivery studies focus on the functionalization of the nanoparticles with bio-molecules and their manipulation with magnetic field gradients.
The Nanotech Lab in Electrical and Computer Engineering focuses on the development of nanotech related tools for detection and treatment of cancer. Nanotube based devices that can detect surface receptors in cancer cells and "nanobombs" that can kill cancer cells are the primary focus of the quest to develop new technologies for early detection and treatment of cancer.